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Courtesy / NJCAA Central Alabama Community College's Owen Burt tees off at the NJCAA Division I Golf Championships last week.

Halfway through the NJCAA Division I Golf National Championships last week, Central Alabama Community College wasn’t doing so well. Although the Trojans had shot lights out with rounds of 6 under and 7 under the first two days, they were sitting in just fourth place and were trailing leader Indian Hills by 13 shots.

But CACC slowly but surely battled its way back, going into the final round of competition down by just one shot and finally taking the lead after six holes on Day 4.

“On the final day, the live scoring was coming in every six holes,” CACC coach Dave Jennings said. “Once I saw the live scoring showing us we were one shot ahead of Indian Hills, I thought, ‘Oh my, here we go. This is going to be fun.’”

Central Alabama built on its lead, putting three golfers in the top five, and eventually pulled away from the competition for good, winning the tournament in Melbourne, Florida by 13 shots to win its first national championship since 2012.

“It was pretty important for me and everyone else,” said CACC sophomore Owen Burt, who is a graduate of Stanhope Elmore. “I was pretty surprised because there were a lot of other good teams there and a lot of other good players. I was surprised how it turned out at the end of the week.

Benjamin Russell graduate Dylan Moncus, a CACC freshman said, “This feels great. It’s really indescribable how it feels. Going to state my senior year, I thought we had a good chance at that but we came up short. That gave me the motivation to work harder. Then when I got to college, it feels really good and feels like the hard work finally paid off.” 

Because golf is such a mental game, the Trojans tried not to let being down by 13 after two days of competition bother them.

“It was hard but we just had to play well and do what we know how to do,” said Jack Poole, who shot a 13-under 275 and finished second individually. “You can’t really have it in your mind that day. We just played like we knew how to do and we got back within one. Then we all played really well on the last day and got the win.” 

Burt shot 1 under on each of the first two days and 3 under the last two, which was good enough to earn him third place as an individual.

“I think the front nine was pretty gettable,” Burt said. “You definitely had to shoot your best score on the front but for me, I think my best nine holes was on the back. As a team, the strategy was to shoot really well on the front then try to stick around even on the back.” 

Caleb O’Toole carded a four-day total of 281 which tied him for fifth place and also earned him All-American status.

“Three guys in the top five, that’s awesome,” Jennings said. “Jack has been on the cusp of playing super golf, and his second place, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened a lot earlier. Owen, he’s a good player and Caleb has been playing great all year long. He hasn’t finished out of the top 10 all year.”

All five of the Trojans finished in the top 60 out of more than 115 players. Reed Love tied for 30th with a four-day total of 290, and Moncus carded a 298 to tie for 56th. Although Moncus was fifth on the team, his first-day score was counted and it made a huge difference for the Trojans.

“Dylan has shocked a lot of people because they almost thought I was bringing him because he is local but that wasn’t the case at all,” Jennings said. “He passed four other scholarship golfers to make it to nationals, and he was playing in our fifth spot. I can’t ask any more than that — first day, he shoots 1-under par. If we don’t have that, we have to count a 79. That’s big. Our base is not set up unless Dylan is there. He did his job.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.